Pakistan Embassy, Washington holds event to mark International Women’s Day

F.P. Report

WASHINGTON: The Embassy of Pakistan, Washington D.C. hosted a special event to commemorate International Women’s Day 2021 today. The webinar, was titled “Pakistani American Women Leaders – Change Makers and Innovators”.

Speaking on the occasion as a keynote speaker, Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation, lauded the role of Pakistani women and said that “women are proud partners in Pakistan’s national development.” She said that the Government is committed to empower women at all levels of society. In this regard, she mentioned the various measures of the Government for enhancing financial inclusion and political/civic representation of women. She also shared the initiatives of the Ehsaas Program aimed at uplifting women across the country. Dr. Nishtar also appreciated U.S. support to the Government of Pakistan for women empowerment over the years.

Ambassador Dr. Asad M. Khan said that women’s contribution in strengthening Pakistan-US relations and “their role as bridge builders” needs to be better appreciated. He reiterated that Pakistan was committed to empowering its women. Thanking the speakers and panelists of the event, Dr. Khan lauded their individual as well as collective contributions to society. Among the key take-aways’ from the deliberations of the event, Ambassador Khan concluded that “women are the change makers in society and they are force multipliers.” Fostering dialogue through events such as this one would enable us “to discover and tap into untapped potential of women and to inspire others around us.”

Representing the U.S. Department of State, Mr. Erwin Massinga, Special Advisor, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs stated that “advancing gender equality was among the top priorities of the Biden-Harris administration.” He said the U.S. had partnered with Pakistan to improve the lives of women across the country through a number of joint initiatives. “While creating opportunities to empower women, we need to address issues such as gender violence,” Massinga added. He acknowledged the contributions of Pakistani American women who were rendering great service to foster stronger ties between the two countries.

The other keynote speaker was Dr. Azra Raza, Professor of Medicine, Columbia University. She spoke in detail about her personal struggles that led her to pursue a successful career in medicine in the U.S. and how she surmounted the difficulties in her academic and professional life. She urged that women should be seen not as equals but as champions of change and their sacrifices and contributions must be acknowledged.

The event was divided into three sessions:

i. Plenary session (Dr. Sania Nishtar and Dr. Azra Raza were the key speakers in addition to Amb. Khan and Special Advisor Massinga);

ii. Mentoring session hat featured individual talks moderated by Counsellor Press, Ms. Maliha Shahid. Participants included Ms. Shaista Mahmood (U.S. Pakistan Women’s Council), Ms. Kalsoom Lakhani (entrepreneur/venture capitalist), and Dr. Hina Chaudhry (Associate Professor of Medicine); and

iii. Networking session that featured a panel discussion moderated by Consul General of Pakistan, New York, Ms. Ayesha Ali. Panelists included Ms. Shimmi Kidwai (philanthropist), Ms. Bushra Amiwala (youngest Pakistani American female to hold public office), Ms. Iram Parveen Bilal (filmmaker/storyteller), Ms. Meher Sheikh Stevie (life career coach) and Ms. Nida Jamal (social activist/philanthropist).

In their remarks, the speakers highlighted various aspects of their lives and narrated their own stories/experiences which had shaped the course of their successful professional careers. They all underscored the common challenges faced by women in their everyday lives, as mothers as well as working women.

A minute of silence was observed during the event to express solidarity with the innocent women and children of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), who have endured the worst forms of human rights abuse and oppression at the hands of Indian occupation forces.

The event was widely attended by women leaders from among the Pakistani American community. It was also aired live on Facebook. The Embassy intends to host similar events in the coming days to showcase the high achieving women among the diaspora and to inspire other community members through their stories.